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The 7 most important soft skills for digital transformation
Tuesday, August 16th, 2022
You may be a tech genius, fluent in a multitude of programming languages and already in possession of a steady career, but without the soft skills to lead digital transformation, your ability to implement change will be limited.
Likewise, if you’re managing a team of technicians, you may have a hard time promoting team members to lead transformation efforts because of a lack of leadership training.
“Technology skills are no longer highly centered in IT; they need to be ‘marbled’ across organizational functions and businesses and coupled with soft skills to achieve transformation success.” (Gartner)
In order to better balance your own skill set (or the collective skill set of your team), soft skills in tech are essential to back up technical expertise and drive transformation.
But what do we mean when we talk about soft skills for digital transformation?
Below we cover the importance of digital leadership skills, focusing on ‘softer’ skills such as people management and collaboration, alongside information on how to upskill for management roles.
Hard skills vs soft skills
‘Hard skills’ refer to your technical capabilities (such as statistical analysis or cloud computing), commonly listed as firm requirements on job advertisements.
‘Soft skills’ are harder to quantify and refer to your characteristics as an employee (such as interpersonal and teamworking skills).
More than just ‘nice to haves’, soft skills are just as important as hard skills when it comes to leading transformation.
Technical abilities are essential to ensure sound technological developments are being made, but, unless these are combined with the people skills needed to drive solutions and implement change as a team, the results will be less than optimal.
Ulster University’s online, part-time Business in Tech MSc teaches the soft skills for digital transformation alongside advanced leadership, business analysis and consulting skills to balance your skill set and boost your career potential.
Below we list the seven most in-demand soft skills for digital transformation, as pinpointed by LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trend 2022 report and McKinsey’s 2022 skills gap insights.
1. Strategic thinking
As a digital transformation manager, you’ll need solid analytical skills that enable you to find logical solutions to various tech issues. There is also a softer side to analytical thinking, which includes being able to think ahead, identify problems before they arise and methodically take things apart to gain insight into how processes work.
Similarly, problem-solving is among the key skills for digital transformation managers. The softer side of problem-solving is being able to see the human side of the problem and handle it with empathy and compassion. Perseverance is closely linked, allowing you to solve even the toughest problems with some time and effort.
On the Business in Tech MSc, you’ll develop your ability to think strategically on practical modules such as ‘Consultancy in Practice’. This project-based learning module will develop your expertise in business and investigation, analysis and reporting through a real-life consulting project.
2. People management
An umbrella term to refer to all interactions with employees, people management couldn’t be more crucial to digital transformation success.
People management skills are inclusive of effective communication skills, stakeholder management and negotiation. Having all these skills will enable you to communicate your central goals, implement change efficiently and persuade others to believe in your strategy. Overall, this is no easy task and requires a great deal of emotional intelligence, empathy and self-confidence.
With good people management skills, a transformation project has a better chance of success. You may also see a boost in employee satisfaction, efficiency and team cohesion, which in turn will have a positive effect on employee retention and profit margins.
The ‘Stakeholder and Client Management’ module on Ulster’s Business in Tech Masters course aims to develop your skills in influencing and implementing sustainable change, through the evaluation and application of concepts, methods and theories of stakeholder management.
Organisation is another of the top soft skills for digital transformation, allowing for added efficiency and productivity at work.
As a manager working across major projects, you must be organised enough to manage your time, plan daily tasks and prioritise accordingly. Making sure your team demonstrates these skills, too, is also part of your remit.
During transformation, you’ll be working on new processes which are often untested and without structure. To make up for this, a good leader should strive for order and synchronicity even when breaking new ground.
Unlike traditional study routes, distance learning requires a unique sense of self-organisation and time management. You’ll receive support throughout from our Student Success Team, but ultimately, it’s up to you to balance your studies with your existing professional and personal commitments. In doing this, you’ll learn how to manage your time and goals, demonstrating discipline and a clear vision for your long-term growth.
Adaptability is a key skill for managers, helping them to face setbacks and unexpected changes with grace. Technical and last-minute issues will no doubt arise during transformation and so, being flexible and resilient, as well as quick to implement changes, is highly sought after among digital transformation teams.
Resourcefulness runs parallel to adaptability. Having a working knowledge of all the resources available to you and a desire to find new ones can enhance efficiency and make you a more productive manager.
Some of the most iconic technology leaders have benefitted from their creative minds, including Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. With this creativity, tech companies can launch groundbreaking products and innovate their sector.
Hard to train but no less important, creativity is helped by having curiosity to learn new things and being open-minded to change. Being imaginative and coming up with innovative solutions is also an aspect of creative thinking.
Brainstorming regularly can help to hone creative skills, allowing your team to come up with ideas for product improvements and solutions more freely and benefit your organisation during periods of transformation.
The final ‘Transformation Consultancy Project’ offered on our Business in Tech Masters works to develop creative problem solving – and a whole host of applied skills in transformation leadership – as part of a live consulting project.
6. Communication and collaboration
For successful digital transformation, managers need to be able to communicate complex ideas across the business. Those managers who cannot communicate their needs and ideas, and listen to others’ accordingly, will struggle to achieve their business goals.
The use of clear and concise language – both written and verbal – will help to ensure your ideas are explained in a way that is easily understood at all levels. This includes emails, proposals and design documents, as well as in-person discussions.
Collaboration is a related skill that will also make you an invaluable member of any transformation team. By playing an active and passionate part in team collaboration, you can better capture the imaginations of your employees and earn their faith in your plan.
As a distance learning student at Ulster, you’ll join an online community of like-minded professionals from around the world. You’ll learn how to digest, analyse and explain complex business concepts clearly and have strong evidence of collaborative working. During each module, you’ll collaborate with your peers within online seminars, discussion boards, group chats and beyond.
7. Project management
An amalgamation of all the skills outlined above, project management is one of the hardest aspects of leading transformation and may require additional training.
Transformation project managers must constantly juggle multiple projects and responsibilities while also meeting deadlines and hitting benchmarks.
Leading transformation projects will require sound time management and organisation skills, combined with the ability to make plans, set goals, solve problems and hit targets. What’s more, the unexpected may happen – in this case, adaptability will also be advantageous.
Upskill on a part-time, online Business in Tech MSc
At Ulster University we welcome industry professionals from all walks of life to train with us on a range of postgraduate courses, including PG Cert, PG Dip and Masters qualifications.
Our online Business in Tech MSc provides transformation management training for professionals within the tech sector, with part-time flexibility. Designed in close collaboration with industry leaders, this Masters course aims to help bridge the gap between technical expertise and business acumen.
On the course, you’ll learn to apply principles of transformation management, business analysis and consulting in order to solve complex business issues, implement sustainable change and deliver sustainable outcomes.
Students on the MSc in Business in Tech can study from anywhere in the world at any time, with 24/7 access to course materials. Working professionals can fit their studies around work and existing commitments while also working towards a career-enhancing postgraduate qualification.
The full MSc in Business in Tech takes a minimum of two years (24 months) of part-time study but, depending on your goals, you can alternatively opt for the Postgraduate Certificate in Business Analysis and Consulting (8 months) or the Postgraduate Diploma in Transformation Management and Leadership (16 months).